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April 21, 2016

FinTech: Epicenter of Disruption (Part 2)

Summary:

Innovation in insurance can largely be attributed to technological advances, such as blockchain, from outside the sector.

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This is the second in a four part series. To read the first article click here.

To help industry players navigate the changes in the banking, fund transfer and payments, insurance and asset and wealth management sectors, we have identified the main emerging trends that will be most significant in the next five years in each area of the FS industry.

Overall, the key trends will enhance customer experience, self-directed services, sophisticated data analytics and cybersecurity. However, the focus will differ from one FS segment to another.

Banks are going for a renewed digital customer experience

Banks are moving toward non-physical channels by implementing operational solutions and developing new methods to reach, engage and retain customers.

As they pursue a renewed digital customer experience, many are engaging in FinTech to provide customer experiences on a par with large tech companies and innovative start-ups.

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Simplified operations to improve customer experience

The trends that financial institutions are prioritizing in the banking industry are closely linked. Solutions that banks can easily integrate to improve and simplify operations are rated highest in terms of level of importance, whereas the move toward non-physical or virtual channels is ranked highest in terms of likelihood to respond.

Banks are adopting new solutions to improve and simplify operations, which foster a move away from physical channels and toward digital/mobile delivery. Open development and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions have been central to giving banks the ability to streamline operational capabilities. The incorporation of application program interfaces (APIs) enables third parties to develop value-added solutions and features that can easily be integrated with bank platforms; and SaaS solutions assist banks in offering customers a wider array of options—which are constantly upgraded, without banks having to invest in the requisite research, design and development of new technologies.

The move toward virtual banking solutions is being driven, in large part, by consumer expectations. While some customer segments still prefer human interactions in certain parts of the process, a viable digital approach is now mandatory for lenders wishing to compete across all segments. Online banks rely  on transparency, service quality and unlimited global access to attract Millennials, who are willing to access multiple service channels. In addition, new players in the banking market offer ease of use in product design and prioritize 24/7 customer service, often provided through non-traditional methods such as social media.

So what?—Put the customer at the center of operations

Traditional banks may already have many of the streamlined and digital-/mobile-first capabilities, but they should look to integrate their multiple digital channels into an omni-channel customer experience and leverage their existing customer relationships and scale. Banks can organize around customers, rather than a single product or channel, and refine their approach to provide holistic solutions by tailoring their offerings to customer expectations. These efforts can also be supported by using newfound digital channels to collect data from customers to help better predict their needs, offer compelling value propositions and generate new revenue streams.

Fund transfer and payments priorities are security and increased ease of payment

Our survey shows that the major trends for fund transfer
and payments companies are related to both increased ease and security of payments.

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Safe and fast payments are emerging trends

Smartphone adoption is one of the drivers of changing payments patterns. Today’s mobile-first consumers expect immediacy, convenience and security to be integral to payments. In our culture of on-demand streaming of digital products and services, archaic payment solutions that take days rather than seconds for settlement are considered unacceptable, motivating both incumbents and newcomers to develop solutions that enable transfer of funds globally in real time. End users also expect a consistent omni-channel experience in banking and payments, making digital wallets key to streamlining the user experience and enabling reduced friction at the checkout. Finally, end users expect all of this to be safe. Security and privacy are paramount to galvanizing support for nascent forms of digital transactions, and solutions that leverage biometrics for fast and robust authentication, coupled with obfuscation technologies, such as tokenization, are critical components in creating an environment of trust for new payment paradigms.

So what?—Speed up, but in a secure way

Speed, security and digitization will be growing trends for the payments ecosystem. In an environment where traditional loyalty to financial institutions is being diminished and barriers to entry from third parties are lowered, the competitive landscape is fluid and potentially changeable, as newcomers like Apple Pay, Venmo and Dwolla have demonstrated. Incumbents that are slow to adapt to change could well find themselves losing market share to companies that may not have a traditional payments pedigree but that have a critical mass of users and the network capability to enable payment experiences that are considered at least equivalent to the status quo. While most of these solutions “ride the rails” of traditional banking, in doing so they risk losing control of the customer experience and ceding ground to innovators, or “steers,” who conduct transactions as they see fit.

Asset and wealth management shifts from technology-enabled human advice to human-supported technology-driven advice

The proliferation of data, along with new methods to capture it and the declining cost of doing so, is reshaping the investment landscape. New uses of data analytics span the spectrum from institutional trading and risk management to small notional retail wealth management. The increased sophistication of data analytics is reducing the asymmetry of information between small- and large-scale financial institutions and investors, with the latter taking advantage of automated FS solutions. Sophisticated analytics also uses advanced trading and risk management approaches such as behavioral and predictive algorithms, enabling the analysis of all transactions in real time. Wealth managers are increasingly using analytics solutions at every stage of the customer relationship to increase client retention and reduce operational costs. By incorporating broader and multi-source data sets, they are forming a more holistic view of customers to better anticipate and satisfy their needs.

Spread Out

Given that wealth managers have a multitrillion-dollar opportunity in the transfer of wealth from Baby Boomers to Millennials, the incorporation of automated advisory capabilities—either in whole or in part—will be a prerequisite. This fundamental change in the financial adviser’s role empowers customers and can directly inform their financial decision-making process.

So what?—Withstand the pressure of automation

Automated investment advice (i.e. robo-advisers) poses a significant competitive threat to operators in the execution-only and self-directed investment market, as well as to traditional financial advisers. Such robot and automatic advisory capabilities will put pressure on traditional advisory services and fees, and they will transform the delivery of advice. Many self-directed firms have responded with in-house and proprietary solutions, and advisers are likely to adapt with hybrid high-tech/high-touch models. A secondary by-product of automated customer analysis is the lower cost of customer onboarding, conversion and funding rates. This change in the financial advisory model has created a challenge for wealth managers, who have struggled for years to figure out how to create profitable relationships with clients in possession of fewer total assets. Robo-advisers provide a viable solution for this segment and, if positioned correctly as part of a full service offering, can serve as a segue to full service advice for clients with specific needs or higher touch.

Insurers leverage data and analytics to bring personalized value propositions while managing risk

The insurance sector sees usage-based risk models and new methods for capturing risk-related data as key trends, while the shift to more self-directed services remains a top priority to efficiently meet existing customer expectations.

Together

Increasing self-directed services for insurance clients

Our survey shows that self-directed services are the most important trend and the one to which the market is by far most likely to respond. As is the case in other industry segments, insurance companies are investing in the design and implementation of more self-directed services for both customer acquisition and customer servicing. This allows companies to improve their operational efficiency while enabling online/mobile channels that are demanded by emerging segments such as Millennials. There have been interesting cases where customer-centric designs create compelling user experiences (e.g. quotes obtained by sending a quick picture of the driving license and the car vehicle identification number (VIN)), and where new solutions bring the opportunity to mobilize core processes in a matter of hours (e.g. provide access to services by using robots to create a mobile layer on top of legacy systems) or augment current key processes (e.g. FNOL3 notification, which includes differentiated mobile experiences).

Usage-based insurance is becoming more relevant

Current trends also show an increasing interest in finding new underwriting approaches based on the generation of deep risk insights. In this respect, usage-based models—rated the second most important trend by survey participants—are becoming more relevant, even as initial challenges such as data privacy are being overcome. Auto insurance pay-as-you-drive is now the most popular usage-based insurance (UBI), and the current focus is shifting from underwriting to the customer. Initially, incumbents viewed UBI as an opportunity to underwrite risk in a more granular way by using new driving/ behavioral variables, but new players see UBI as an opportunity to meet new customers’ needs (e.g. low mileage or sporadic drivers).

Data capture and analytics as an emerging trend

Remote access and data capture was ranked third by the survey respondents in level of importance. Deep risk (and loss) insights can be generated from new data sources that can be accessed remotely and in real time if needed. This ability to capture huge amounts of data must be coupled with the ability to analyze it to generate the required insights. This trend also includes the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT); for example, (1) drones offer the ability to access remote areas and assess loss by running advanced imagery analytics, and (2) integrated IoT platforms solutions include various types of sensors, such as telematics, wearables and those found in industrial sites, connected homes or any other facilities/ equipment.

So what?—Differentiate, personalize and leverage new data sources

Customers with new expectations and the need to build trusted relationships are forcing incumbents to seek value propositions where experience, transaction efficiency and transparency
are key elements. As self-directed solutions emerge among competitors, the ability to differentiate will be a challenge.

Similarly, usage-based models are emerging in response to customer demands for personalized insurance solutions. The ability to access and capture remote risk data will help develop a more granular view of the risk, thus enabling personalization. The telematics-based solution that enables pay-as-you-drive is one of the first models to emerge and is gaining momentum; new approaches are also emerging in the life insurance market where the use of wearables to monitor the healthiness of lifestyles can bring rewards and premium discounts, among other benefits.

Leveraging new data sources to obtain a more granular view of the risk will not only offer a key competitive advantage in a market where risk selection and pricing strategies can be augmented, but it will also allow incumbents to explore unpenetrated segments. In this line, new players that have generated deep risk insights are also expected to enter these unpenetrated segments of the market; for example, life insurance for individuals with specific diseases.

Finally, we believe that, in addition to social changes, the driving force behind innovation in insurance can largely be attributed
to technological advances outside the insurance sector that will bring new opportunities to understand and manage the risk (e.g. telematics, wearables, connected homes, industrial sensors, medical advances, etc.), but will also have a direct impact on some of the foundations (e.g. ADAS and autonomous cars).

Blockchain: An untapped technology is rewriting the FS rulebook

Blockchain is a new technology that combines a number of mathematical, cryptographic and economic principles to maintain a database between multiple participants without the need for any third party validator or reconciliation. In simple terms, it is a secure and distributed ledger. Our insight is that blockchain represents the next evolutionary jump in business process optimization technology. Just as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software allowed functions and entities within a business to optimize business processes by sharing data and logic within the enterprise, blockchain will allow entire industries to optimize business processes further by sharing data between businesses that have different or competing economic objectives. That said, although the technology shows a lot of promise, several challenges and barriers to adoption remain. Further, a deep understanding of blockchain and its commercial implications requires knowledge that intersects various disparate fields, and this leads to some uncertainty regarding its potential applications.

Blocks

Uncertain responses to the promises of blockchain

Compared with the other trends, blockchain ranks lower on the agendas of survey participants. While a majority of respondents (56%) recognize its importance, 57% say they are unsure or unlikely to respond to this trend. This may be explained by the low level of familiarity with this new technology: 83% of respondents are at best “moderately” familiar with it, and very few consider themselves to be experts. This lack of understanding may lead market participants to underestimate the potential impact of blockchain on their activities.

The greatest level of familiarity with blockchain can be seen among fund transfer and payments institutions, with 30% of respondents saying they are very familiar with blockchain (meaning they are relatively confident about their knowledge of how the technology works).

How the financial sector can benefit from blockchain

In our view, blockchain technology may result in a radically different competitive future in the FS industry, where current profit pools are disrupted and redistributed toward the owners of new, highly efficient blockchain platforms. Not only could there be huge cost savings through its use in back-office operations, but there could also be large gains in transparency that could be very positive from an audit and regulatory point of view. One particular hot topic is that of “smart contracts”—contracts that are translated into computer programs and, as such, have the ability to be self-executing and self-maintaining. This area is just starting to be explored, but its potential for automating and speeding up manual and costly processes is huge.

Innovation from start-ups in this space is frenetic, with the pace of change so rapid that by the time print materials go to press, they could already be out-of-date. To put this in perspective, PwC’s Global Blockchain team has identified more than 700 companies entering this arena. Among them, 150 are worthy to be tracked, and 25 will likely emerge as leaders.

The use cases are coming thick and fast but usually center on increasing efficiency by removing the need for reconciliation between parties, speeding up the settlement of trades or completely revamping existing processes, including:

    • Enhancing efficiency in loan origination and servicing;
    • Improving clearing house functions used by banks;
    • Facilitating access to securities. For example, a bond that could automatically pay the coupons to bondholders, and any additional provisions could be executed when the conditions are met, without any need for human maintenance; and
    • The application of smart contracts in relation to the Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine a car insurance that is embedded
      in the car and changes the premium paid based on
      the driving habits of the owner. The car contract could also contact the nearest garages that have a contract with the insurance company in the event of an accident or a request for towing. All of this could happen with very limited human interaction.

So what?—An area worth exploring

When faced with disruptive technologies, the most effective companies thrive by incorporating them into the way they do business. Distributed ledger technologies offer FS institutions a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the industry to their benefit, or not.

However, as seen in the survey responses, the knowledge of and the likelihood to react to the developments in blockchain technology are relatively low. We believe that lack of understanding of the technology and its potential for disruption poses significant risks to the existing profit pools and business models. Therefore, we recommend an active approach to identify and respond to the various threats and opportunities this transformative technology presents. A number of start-ups in the field, such as R3CEV, Digital Asset Holdings and Blockstream, are working to create entirely new business models that would lead to accelerated “creative destruction” in the industry. The ability to collaborate on both the strategic and business levels with a few key partners, in our view, could become a key competitive advantage in the coming years.

This post was co-written by: John Shipman, Dean Nicolacakis, Manoj Kashyap and Steve Davies.

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About the Author

Javier Baixas is an insurtech lead for PwC and collaborates with the PwC fintech practice based in San Francisco in the development of an insurance value proposition.

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About the Author

Jamie Yoder is a global executive who has been at the forefront of insurance and technology for nearly three decades. As president of Snapsheet, Yoder leads the company’s go-to-market activities across all business lines, including claims management software, virtual appraisals and payments technology.

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About the Author

Haskell Garfinkel is the co-leader of PwC’s FinTech practice. He focuses on assisting the world’s largest financial institutions consume technological innovation and advising global technology companies on building customer centric financial services solutions.

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